Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dancing Lessons From God, Part 5.

Being back in Nashua suddenly became like a prison. I had gone back to my mundane assembly job at my mother’s company but I just could not focus on anything. All I thought about was the three weeks I spent on the road and experiencing what life was like elsewhere in the country. My relationship with my girlfriend at the time suffered terribly as I was never happy and she thought it was because of her (which was not the case at all). One day it dawned on me that the way out could be the Air Force, just as Randy had done. I called a recruiter and told him I was interested in joining. He asked me several questions such as my age, marital status, did I have a college degree, then told me that I was a perfect candidate and asked me to come down and see him. I told him that I was currently in the Army Reserves and he sighed as he replied that he couldn’t take me after all because they were not allowed to enlist people from other services. Needless to say, I was absolutely crushed. My only hope of getting out and doing something meaningful had just vanished. Going active duty army was not even an option because my experience in the Reserves had made me realize that I didn’t really like the army. I had a lot of friends in my unit who had once been active duty and hated it which really soured me to the idea so I never even considered it. After that I spent a lot of time at the local Barnes and Noble scouring the newspapers from around the country looking for something – anything – that I might be qualified for. The only good prospects I had were all sales related and I didn’t want to go down that route again. Things were looking bleak when one day I opened the local newspaper, the Nashua Telegraph, and noticed an interesting ad in the classifieds. It seems the paper was buying a new voice information system and was looking for a motivated individual to run it, promote it, and basically handle every aspect of it. The qualifications they listed matched my resume so I half-heartedly applied and didn’t think much of it until they called me for an interview. The interview went well but I wasn’t really thrilled about it until the sales manager told me that they would start me off at $31,000 a year. Now, that may not seem like a lot of money but to someone who had spent his share of time toiling away at temp jobs, menial assembly work and who had even sold Kirby vacuum cleaners for a couple weeks, it was a small fortune. Suddenly my attitude changed and staying in Nashua didn’t seem so bad after all. I convinced myself that I would be happy because I finally had landed a job that would pay me enough to make a good living and everything that came with it.

I loved the job right away. It involved sales but that was only a part of it. First they sent me down to Pottsville, Pennsylvania for training on how to run and promote the system. When I got back I hit the ground running. The system was fascinating at the time. It was basically a computerized phone system that received satellite feeds from various media services. Then anybody in the local area could call free and get information by pressing a four digit code. For example if you wanted the baseball score from last night’s game you would call the number and enter the four digit code for the baseball scores and you would receive them over the phone. We also had stock market updates, soap opera updates, weather updates, pretty much anything you could imagine. The newspaper would run a full or half page ad every day with a listing of what was available. Part of my job was to sell ads on the system and I received a commission on what I sold. We called the system Pressline and it was an instant hit, averaging over 30,000 calls a month my first year. Advertising revenue was steadily climbing as I invented new and creative ways for local and national businesses to spend money on Pressline. I loved the fact that, although I answered to the sales manager, I had a great degree of freedom at the job as I’ve always worked best without someone looking over my shoulder every two minutes. I also loved putting on my tie every morning and going to work in my big office and doing business lunches and all that stuff that I thought I had left behind. I did a lot of public relations projects with local charities, businesses and schools. It was also rewarding when someone would ask me what I do for a living and I would tell them I run Pressline and their eyes would get big as they told me how much they love it and call it all the time. While I didn’t feel important per se, I certainly did feel like I was starting to make my mark – such as it was – on the community.

(Click HERE for Part VI)

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